What is average handle time (AHT)?
Definition: Average handle time (AHT) is a metric used in customer support and service to measure the average amount of time it takes for a support agent to handle customer interaction.
It includes the time the agent spends communicating with the customer, along with any time spent performing tasks related to the interaction, such as data entry or follow-up activities.
AHT is measured in minutes and used to evaluate customer support's efficiency. A lower AHT generally indicates that support agents are able to resolve customer issues more quickly and efficiently, which can lead to higher customer satisfaction and improved customer loyalty.
How to calculate average handle time?
It is calculated with a formula considering the total time spent talking with customers over the number of calls handled by the support representative.
AHT = (Total Talk Time + Hold Time + Follow-Up Time) / Total Number of Calls
It is used for a specific period of time or the previous number of calls. Its components can vary depending on the channel used — email and chat communication only consider the time it took to resolve the request without hold times.
For example, a team leader has measured their representative's AHT over the past week. They had 300 calls in total. These calls took 1100 minutes, with the hold time being 330 minutes and time spent on follow-ups 260 minutes.
AHT = (1100+330+260)/300
AHT = 5.6 minutes is the average time it takes one rep to resolve a request.
What is a good average handle time?
It depends on the industry and the type of service being provided.
An overall AHT across all industries combined is 6.6 minutes.
If an AHT is below the corresponding industry average, the company provides solutions quickly, while anything above it is considered slower than average.
Most industries consider aiming for a 4-5 minute AHT great.
Companies experiencing higher AHT need to focus on bringing it down, but AHT should never be too low as it can negatively impact customer service quality.
Industry benchmarks for average handle time
Technology - 4.5
Financial Services - 4.7
Healthcare - 5.3
Telecommunications - 8.8
Government - 4.4
E-Commerce - 5.3
Hospitality - 4.8
How can average handle time be reduced?
- Building a comprehensive knowledge base for both customers and the support team helps the team get to information quicker and eases the load on them as customers can resolve easy problems independently.
- Automating common requests, data entry, or routing reduces representative workloads.
- Creating a standard workflow with scripts, call escalation procedures, and how customers are handled helps call efficiency.
- Using tech in every part of the process (chatbots, call monitoring, AI…) increases representative efficiency.
- Analyzing bottlenecks like hold times or multiple transfers helps the team understand what they need to work on.
- Improving internal communication through standardized procedures, quick communication channels, and collaboration tools greatly reduces hold times.
What are the reasons for the high average handle time?
- Inadequate training makes the team unsure of their answers, impacting the time and quality.
- An underdeveloped knowledge base leads the team to search for solutions to common problems repeatedly.
- Complex issues can take a long time to resolve, requiring extensive work or collaboration with the development team.
- Poor communication with customers and inability to explain the solution confuse the customer.
- Unnecessary calls that can be handled by automation.
- Inconsistent processes lead the team to wait long times for answers from devs or their higher-ups.